Every woman knows the routine of getting her routine Pap smears, but people rarely talk about what happens when the results come back abnormal. Typically patients are shuffled into a process of biopsies and procedures to treat the abnormality, with no discussion of alternative options. Approximately 3 million women in the US every year will have an abnormal Pap! And I would estimate that less than .005% of those women will take a non-invasive approach to treating the cervical dysplasia.
Why would you want to take an alternative approach with something as scary as cervical cancer, you ask? First, cervical carcinoma is a very slow-to-develop disease process, so you actually do have time to consider multiple treatment options and choose one that suits you best. The typical treatment for cervical dysplasia is often quickly presented to women with little to no explanation or offering of alternatives. It can range from watch and wait to cryotherapy to removal with a scalpel or laser, or a LEEP procedure. LEEP is the most commonly used and involves a thin, low voltage wire to cut out abnormal tissue. Typically women experience up to 3 weeks of vaginal bleeding and discharge. While this is an effective means of eliminating HPV infected tissue, complications include infection and cervical scarring, which can impair the healthy flow of menstrual blood and cervical secretions and can present fertility and childbearing issues.
Naturopathic doctors are trained in natural medicine approaches to gynecologic issues, including both topical as well as internal treatments for cervical dysplasia. The treatments we use are called escharotics, which offer a safe and effective alternative to conventional approaches. These treatments have a significantly lower risk profile and do not scar the cervix or carry a significant risk of infection or lasting complications. The cervical treatments are supported by oral agents to support your whole body in eliminating the HPV infection. The term "escharotic" refers to the sclerosing and exfoliating effect of herbal and mineral preparations to the abnormal cervical tissue, thereby inducing the abnormal tissue to lose water, die and eventually slough off.
Depending on the severity of dysplasia your treatments may include just a rotation of herbal suppositories, or it may require a series of bi-weekly visits to the clinic for topically applied treatments. The treatments take place in our office and are completed within 30 minutes each visit. For research on escharotics please see this abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19679625. And for more on abnormal Pap smears please click here: http://www.naturopathic.org/article_content.asp?article=788 We hope this information helps you and your friends and family in your understanding of the low-risk options women have to treat cervical dysplasia.